Thursday, November 11, 2021

Is It Really “Champions” Time Again?

I have great respect for English screenwriter Dennis Spooner (1932-1986). After all, he was instrumental in bringing TV viewers such memorable vintage series as Man in a Suitcase, Department S, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), and Gene Barry’s The Adventurer.

One of his more unusual creations, however, was The Champions, a 1968-1969 ITC Entertainment drama that was equal parts spy fiction and science fiction (with occult influences thrown in for good measure). The show starred Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo, and William Gaunt. It ran for 30 episodes before being cancelled. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the series’ premise:
Agents Craig Stirling, Sharron Macready and Richard Barrett work for a United Nations law enforcement organization called ‘Nemesis’, based in Geneva. Barrett is a codebreaker, Stirling a pilot, and Macready a recently widowed scientist and doctor.

During their first mission as a team, their plane crashes in the Himalayas. They are rescued by an advanced civilization living secretly in the mountains of Tibet, who save their lives, granting them enhanced abilities, including extrasensory powers to communicate with one another over distances (telepathy) and to foresee events (precognition), enhanced versions of the ordinary five senses, and intellectual and physical abilities reaching the fullest extent of human capabilities.

Many stories feature unusual villains, such as fascist regimes from unspecified South American countries, Nazis (a common theme of ITC 1960s and 1970s TV, in part owing to both the writers and the domestic audience having been of the war generation) or the Chinese. The villains’ schemes often threaten world peace; Nemesis’ brief is international, so the agents deal with threats transcending national interests. The main characters have to learn the use of their new powers as they go along, keeping what they discover secret from friend and foe alike.
See what I mean when I say “unusual”?

So I was surprised to learn, via Variety, that performers “Ben Stiller and Cate Blanchett are teaming up to turn the 1960s espionage television series The Champions into a movie.” The piece quotes Blanchett as saying, “Champions is a long-forgotten gem that will excite a new generation in the same strange and magnificent way that the original series spoke to us. I’ve long wanted to work with Ben—the director and the actor. He is one of the most engaged and versatile directors working today. Anyone who can make both Zoolander and Escape at Dannemora is a creative force to be reckoned with.”

Hmm. It seems there are about a million ways this project could become a disaster. The whole concept is farfetched, and one might fear for the reputations of both Stiller and Blanchett if the finished product is judged outlandish, something appealing to what Champions fans still remain above ground but to few others.

There’s no news yet as to when this rebooted version of The Champions might make it to movie theaters.

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Below is the opening title sequence from the original Champions TV series, with theme music composed by Tony Hatch.


Paul D Brazill said...

I think a reboot could work but Stiller has all the personality of a piece of teak. They'll probably play it for laughs, as the did with the Starsky and Hutch film -which wasn't even very funny. An animated version could work, though.

HonoluLou said...

Too wild! I remember the show fondly as a young teen. I wonder what period in time it will take place? I hope it's done back in that same era...a blast from the past.